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Frequently Asked Questions:  Court Proceedings in DYFS Litigation

When DYFS removes a child from its home in New Jersey, the law requires litigation to protect the rights of the parent and of the child.  There are several steps in child welfare litigation, all of which are mandated by New Jersey law.  The following is an outline of the steps in child welfare litigation.  Howes & Howes has extensive experience in child welfare litigation.  If you have a question, then you should contact our office.

1.  Order to Show Cause. If New Jersey DYFS removes a child from its home, it must file documents with the court within two business days of the removal.  This first step is called the Order to Show Cause.  The parents have the right to be present in the court, to review the documents filed by DYFS and to be represented by counsel.  The court will rule based on the papers filed by DYFS and any argument made on behalf of the parents.

2.  Fact-finding hearing. After discovery is completed, the judge will have to decide wehter or not you abused or neglected your child.  At this hearing, DYFS has the burden of proving through documents and testimony that its allegations are true.  The parent has the right to be represented by counsel, and to challenge the evidence presented by DYFS.  The parent also has the right to testify, if he or she chooses, and to present evidence, if he or she chooses.

3.  Dispositional hearing. If the judge finds that the parent abused or neglected their child, the judge must then decide what should happen next.  The judge will generally order the parent to take certain steps to fix the problem, such as participating in counseling or other treatment.  The judge will also decide whether or not the child can be returned home while the parent is particpating in services, or whether the parent must do certain things before re-unification.

4.  Permanency hearing. If the child is in foster care or other out-of-home placement and nearly a year has gone by, the judge will hold a permanency hearing.  At the permanency hearing, DYFS will present a plan for a permanent living situation for the child, and the judge will decide whether or not to approve that plan.

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